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We’re less than one week into 2016. One week into your new year’s resolution… or maybe not. I don’t make resolutions anymore, and I recommend that you don’t either.

Even those of us who aren’t terribly traditional or nostalgic about holidays tend to feel a pull to make changes for the new year. Humans have always been creatures of cycles: the earth around the sun. The moon around the earth. Seasons. Fertility. Sleep. Laundry. So many different kinds of cycles.

A new year holds so much promise for change. Most of us want more from our lives, and as the year comes to an end, we face this truth in a way that we typically don’t allow (unless we’re in some kind of crisis). So, we make resolutions. 

But there’s a fundamental problem here: resolutions can be broken, and usually are. A quick Google search shows a variety of statistics on how long people typically stick to their resolutions, and the numbers aren’t promising. You need only to look around the gym the first week of January, and then again the first week of February, to see living proof.

So, what’s the solution? Certainly, it isn’t to follow the same patterns that haven’t served you for years. And it’s not to make a slew of resolutions that you know you can’t keep. After all, if you’re like most people, you already feel badly enough about the places in your life where you suspect you aren't making the best choices.

The solution is simpler than you might think: change your resolutions to intentions, and use your intentions to vet each choice you make. It may seem like a small shift but trust me, it’s not. Unlike resolutions, you can’t fail an intention. You can’t give up entirely because you skipped the gym one day. And if you're facing an obstacle that’s preventing you from making choices that align with with your intentions, you can now look directly at that roadblock and work out a way around it.

The first step is to understand what you really want, and make sure your choices are in alignment with your values. The second step is to identify which things in your life you can change, which you can’t change, and which you choose not to change.

If you work two jobs, support a family, and don’t own a reliable car, you may not be able to get to the gym every day. It’s okay. You can come up with a plan that works for you. Small steps and small changes add up to big ones.

The takeaway: get clear about what you want in your life. Make a reasonable plan to get there. Find the obstacles in your way and forge another way around. But most importantly, go easy on yourself. Life is short. Give yourself less grief; you’ll thank yourself for it later.

Dr Samantha Brody is a licensed Naturopathic Physician and acupuncturist and the owner and founder of Evergreen Natural Health Center in SW Portland. She is currently working on a book about how to identify which things are most important for each of us to focus on in order to decrease our overall stress and increase our health and quality of life. She can be found online @DrSamanthaND and at DrSamantha.com

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